Mountain Bike Body Armor Review: Chest Protectors

TO PROTECT OR NOT TO PROTECT?

Review Sponsored by CompetitiveCyclist.com

MTB chest protectors, spine guards, body armor, no matter what you call it, mountain bikers have long searched for ways to stay safe and reduce the chances of serious injury without being too hot or uncomfortable. Over the years, protective gear has improved greatly, from being thick and bulky plastic pieces to the Dainese Pressure suit era in the early 2000s to today’s minimalist mindset, mountain bike protection has evolved and styles have changed. Technological advances in impact absorbing materials like D3O, VPD, and other non-Newtonian “foam” that stiffens upon impact have changed the face of protection from shoe insoles and knee pads up to these torso and chest protectors.

Not all riders feel the need to wear an MTB chest protector when mountain biking, and understandably so. Not everyone is pushing the envelope day in and day out, and the heat and discomfort may not be worth it for your 15 mile XC pedal. If you’re anything like us though, you know sometimes a little extra sweat and discomfort is worth it. We’re sure there have been more than a few riders who have said those same words after a crash, “I should’ve worn my pads today.” Here’s pieces we’ve been testing out over the last couple of years that we think are worthy of your consideration. From long sleeve to sleeveless and minimalist spine protection, brands have just about anything you could want to keep you safe and offer some peace of mind.

OUR ADVICE
Our biggest tip to find the best MTB body armor is to really consider what you want out of your body armor. Meaning, what do you land on most, or what are you most afraid of injuring?

Second, we’d suggest you really evaluate how much protection you think you’re going to wear. Buying the thickest, safest, most heavy-duty protector is just a waste of money if you just keep it in your gear bag because you hate how hot or uncomfortable it is. Sometimes a thinner layer of protection that you always wear is better than the burly one sitting in your car.

Here are a few of our favorite MTB chest protectors and body armor pieces we’ve been wearing over the last couple years.

FOX BASEFRAME PRO
MSRP: $169.95 (SL) | $189.95 (SS)

The Baseframe Pro Short Sleeve is a breathable baselayer designed to be worn under your jersey for low-profile coverage. It includes a removeable back insert, increasing your impact protection, while the fabric wicks away sweat as you ride and keeps you cool. The Baseframe Pro will fit snug and secure—the polymer softens to conform to your body as it is warmed by your own heat—offering minimal restrictions and maximum benefit. The more you ride, the better it feels. The Baseframe Pro is available in 2 variations: SL – a sleeveless version with a D3O back panel and foam hip pads and the SS – the short sleeve variant with removeable D3O inserts in the back, chest and shoulders.

  • Exceeds EN1621-1 level 1 back certification including high and low temperature conditions
  • Removable CE certified D3O® Viper™ back insert features world leading impact protection technology
  • Large perforation and flex grooves in the back foam contours and flexes with rider movement
  • (SS Model Only) EN1621-1 Level 1 D3O® shoulder inserts for additional protection
  • Body heat activates (softens) the polymer to conform to body
  • Moisture wicking, open stretch mesh for breathability

Website: Foxracing.com

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7 PROTECTION FLEX BODY PROTECTOR
MSRP: $129.99

Throw 7 Protection’s Flex Body Protector into your big day rotation and you’ll have the option to adapt your armor to fit whatever’s in store for any given ride. With fixed chest padding, the Flex will always provide you with some cushion during unexpected spills, but it also comes with removable spine and shoulder protection for the days you know you’ll be doing things you might not get away with cleanly. The padding hardens upon impact and was designed to meet CE mountain bike safety standards.

Conveniently, the pocket used to accommodate the spine protection also fits a two-liter hydration bladder, so you can skip the backpack on the days you hit the trails for an endurance ride. As a finishing touch, 7 Protection integrated four rear pockets and a center back pocket into the Flex to give you more than enough room to stash bonk-preventing grub and any other ride essentials.

  • DH body armor featuring removable spine and shoulder padding
  • Fits two-liter hydration bladder in place of spine pad
  • Stretchy, breathable fabric wicks moisture while you ride

Website: 7protection.com

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LEATT AIRFLEX STEALTH BODY PROTECTORS
MSRP: $199.99 (Body Tee) | $249.95 (Body Protector)

Designed for ultimate comfort and function, this super slim CE Certified Airlfex body protector will give you confidence to take on new challenges. Both the Body Tee and Body Protector feature level one back, shoulder protection as well as a chest pad, with the Body Protector also offering elbow protection. The Airflex Stealth protectors fit nicely under most jerseys. The ergonomic fit is achieved thanks to high tech Airflex technology. The vest has a full length zip for easy fitting and works with or without a Leatt Neck Brace.

  • AirFlex ventilated soft impact gel
  • Stealth, super slim ergonomic design
  • Full Length compression zip
  • Superior ventilation using MoistureCool and AirMesh wicking fabrics
  • Our 3D design ensures a great fit that is very comfortable
  • BraceOn™ neck brace fitting system
  • CE tested and certified as impact protection: Back EN1621- 2 Level 1

Website: Leatt.com

POC VPD SYSTEM TORSO
MSRP: $239.95

When it comes to protection, it seems like your noggin gets all of the attention, and while we’ll be the last to tell you to skimp out on your helmet game, we’d like to argue that there are other body parts worth protecting, too. POC’s VPD System Torso takes on one of the most critical zones that is often looked over when tossing on body armor— your spine and chest. The VPD Torso System uses flexible, lightweight VPD pads to cover your back and chest, and omit the vest or jacket construction that others use to elevate flexibility and comfort so you can keep cooler on the trail. The breathable panels warm up with your body heat to contour to your muscles, comfortably moving with you while you ride, however VPD material hardens in the event of an impact, offering outstanding absorption and dissipation of forces. Adjustable straps help you secure a snug fit over your go-to jersey, and keep the chest and back plates snug while you ride so they’re right where you need them if you over estimate a drop and end up in the bushes.

  • Breathable and adaptable chest and back protection
  • Two panels skip extra fabric to keep you cool
  • VPD system flexes with your body, hardens on impact
  • Material is built to dissipate forces and protect
  • Perforated construction keeps breathability a priority
  • Adjustable straps secure over any jersey comfortably
  • Pads are lightweight to suit a variety of riding needs
  • Both pieces can be bought and run separately (VPD Chest $99.95 | VPD System Back $159.95)

Website: POCsports.com

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